Find science on or your birthday

Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “Nature does nothing in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.”
more quiz questions >>
Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index I > Category: Impossibility

Impossibility Quotes (32 quotes)

Dilbert: I'm obsessed with inventing a perpetual motion machine. Most scientists think it's impossible, but I have something they don't.
Dogbert: A lot of spare time?
Dilbert: Exactly.
Dilbert cartoon strip (8 Aug 1991).
Science quotes on:  |  Invention (174)  |  Machine (56)  |  Obsession (5)  |  Perpetual Motion (6)  |  Scientist (237)  |  Thinking (166)

Mi θ impossibile cingere i fianchi di una ragazza con il mio braccio destro e serrare il suo sorriso nella mia mano sinistra, per poi tentare di studiare i due oggetti separatamente. Allo stesso modo, non ci θ possibile separare la vita dalla materia vivente, allo scopo di studiare la sola materia vivente e le sue reazioni. Inevitabilmente, studiando la materia vivente e le sue reazioni, studiamo la vita stessa.
It is impossible to encircle the hips of a girl with my right arm and hold her smile in my left hand, then proceed to study the two items separately. Similarly, we can not separate life from living matter, in order to study only living matter and its reactions. Inevitably, studying living matter and its reactions, we study life itself
In The Nature of Life (1948).
Science quotes on:  |  Arm (4)  |  Girl (6)  |  Hold (21)  |  Life (460)  |  Proceeding (10)  |  Reaction (48)  |  Smile (5)  |  Study (157)

Question: Explain why, in order to cook food by boiling, at the top of a high mountain, you must employ a different method from that used at the sea level.
Answer: It is easy to cook food at the sea level by boiling it, but once you get above the sea level the only plan is to fry it in its own fat. It is, in fact, impossible to boil water above the sea level by any amount of heat. A different method, therefore, would have to be employed to boil food at the top of a high mountain, but what that method is has not yet been discovered. The future may reveal it to a daring experimentalist.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 178-9, Question 11. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
Science quotes on:  |  Answer (96)  |  Boiling (3)  |  Cooking (5)  |  Difference (135)  |  Discovery (360)  |  Examination (47)  |  Experimenter (9)  |  Explanation (88)  |  Fat (8)  |  Food (77)  |  Frying (2)  |  Heat (48)  |  Howler (15)  |  Method (73)  |  Mountain (66)  |  Plan (40)  |  Question (159)

A likely impossibility is always preferable to an unconvincing possibility.
Aristotle
Poetics, 1460a, 26-7. In Jonathan Barnes (ed.), The Complete Works of Aristotle (1984), Vol. 2, 2337.

All knowledge is good. It is impossible to say any fragment of knowledge, however insignificant or remote from one’s ordinary pursuits, may not some day be turned to account.
'Address on University Education' (12 Sep 1876) delivered at the formal opening of the Johns Hopkins University at Baltimore. Collected in Science and Education: Essays (1897), 248.
Science quotes on:  |  Account (15)  |  Fragment (13)  |  Good (81)  |  Insignificance (7)  |  Knowledge (679)  |  Ordinary (19)  |  Pursuit (34)  |  Remoteness (4)  |  Turn (22)

But we have reason to think that the annihilation of work is no less a physical impossibility than its creation, that is, than perpetual motion.
'On the Change of Refrangibility of Light' (1852). In Mathematical and Physical Papers (1901), Vol. 3, 397.
Science quotes on:  |  Annihilation (5)  |  Creation (129)  |  Perpetual Motion (6)  |  Reason (173)  |  Work (198)

From packaging materials, through fibers, foams and surface coatings, to continuous extrusions and large-scale moldings, plastics have transformed almost every aspect of life. Without them, much of modern medicine would be impossible and the consumer electronics and computer industries would disappear. Plastic sewage and water pipes alone have made an immeasurable contribution to public health worldwide.
'Plastics—No Need To Apologize', Trends in Polymer Science (Jun 1996), 4, 172. In Paul C. Painter and Michael M. Coleman, Essentials of Polymer Science and Engineering (2008), 21.
Science quotes on:  |  Aspect (16)  |  Computer (51)  |  Consumer (3)  |  Contribution (23)  |  Disappearance (15)  |  Electronics (6)  |  Fiber (2)  |  Health (93)  |  Immeasurable (2)  |  Industry (49)  |  Life (460)  |  Medicine (185)  |  Modern (44)  |  Pipe (4)  |  Plastic (11)  |  Public (35)  |  Sewage (3)  |  Surface (37)  |  Transformation (27)  |  Water (122)  |  Worldwide (4)

Hygiene is the corruption of medicine by morality. It is impossible to find a hygienist who does not debase his theory of the healthful with a theory of the virtuous. ... The aim of medicine is surely not to make men virtuous; it is to safeguard them from the consequences of their vices.
In 'The Physician', Prejudices: third series (1922), 269.
Science quotes on:  |  Aim (21)  |  Consequence (44)  |  Corruption (5)  |  Hygiene (7)  |  Medicine (185)  |  Morality (19)  |  Safeguard (2)  |  Theory (353)  |  Vice (4)  |  Virtue (27)

I am afraid all we can do is to accept the paradox and try to accommodate ourselves to it, as we have done to so many paradoxes lately in modern physical theories. We shall have to get accustomed to the idea that the change of the quantity R, commonly called the 'radius of the universe', and the evolutionary changes of stars and stellar systems are two different processes, going on side by side without any apparent connection between them. After all the 'universe' is an hypothesis, like the atom, and must be allowed the freedom to have properties and to do things which would be contradictory and impossible for a finite material structure.
Kosmos (1932), 133.
Science quotes on:  |  Acceptance (31)  |  Accommodation (4)  |  Accustom (4)  |  Afraid (7)  |  Apparent (9)  |  Atom (164)  |  Change (133)  |  Connection (39)  |  Contradiction (22)  |  Difference (135)  |  Evolution (342)  |  Finite (13)  |  Freedom (41)  |  Hypothesis (150)  |  Idea (226)  |  Material (60)  |  Modern (44)  |  Paradox (22)  |  Physical (28)  |  Process (97)  |  Property (46)  |  Quantity (23)  |  Radius (3)  |  Star (132)  |  Structure (104)  |  System (66)  |  Theory (353)  |  Universe (291)

I had at one time a very bad fever of which I almost died. In my fever I had a long consistent delirium. I dreamt that I was in Hell, and that Hell is a place full of all those happenings that are improbable but not impossible. The effects of this are curious. Some of the damned, when they first arrive below, imagine that they will beguile the tedium of eternity by games of cards. But they find this impossible, because, whenever a pack is shuffled, it comes out in perfect order, beginning with the Ace of Spades and ending with the King of Hearts. There is a special department of Hell for students of probability. In this department there are many typewriters and many monkeys. Every time that a monkey walks on a typewriter, it types by chance one of Shakespeare's sonnets. There is another place of torment for physicists. In this there are kettles and fires, but when the kettles are put on the fires, the water in them freezes. There are also stuffy rooms. But experience has taught the physicists never to open a window because, when they do, all the air rushes out and leaves the room a vacuum.
'The Metaphysician's Nightmare', Nightmares of Eminent Persons and Other Stories (1954), 38-9.
Science quotes on:  |  Arrival (7)  |  Curiosity (52)  |  Damned (2)  |  Death (183)  |  Department (11)  |  Dream (39)  |  Effect (72)  |  Eternity (22)  |  Experience (132)  |  Fever (5)  |  Fire (59)  |  Freeze (3)  |  Game (28)  |  Happening (23)  |  Hell (13)  |  Imagination (130)  |  Improbable (3)  |  Kettle (2)  |  Monkey (26)  |  Opening (8)  |  Order (60)  |  Perfection (43)  |  Physicist (74)  |  Possibility (70)  |  Room (11)  |  Rush (5)  |  William Shakespeare (63)  |  Shuffle (3)  |  Sonnet (3)  |  Special (25)  |  Torment (5)  |  Typewriter (6)  |  Vacuum (16)  |  Walk (24)  |  Water (122)  |  Window (11)

I have been branded with folly and madness for attempting what the world calls impossibilities, and even from the great engineer, the late James Watt, who said ... that I deserved hanging for bringing into use the high-pressure engine. This has so far been my reward from the public; but should this be all, I shall be satisfied by the great secret pleasure and laudable pride that I feel in my own breast from having been the instrument of bringing forward new principles and new arrangements of boundless value to my country, and however much I may be straitened in pecuniary circumstances, the great honour of being a useful subject can never be taken from me, which far exceeds riches.
From letter to Davies Gilbert, written a few months before Trevithick's last illness. Quoted in Francis Trevithick, Life of Richard Trevithick: With an Account of his Inventions (1872), Vol. 2, 395-6.
Science quotes on:  |  Attempt (41)  |  Biography (199)  |  Boundless (6)  |  Engineer (32)  |  Folly (10)  |  Hanging (2)  |  Honour (20)  |  Invention (174)  |  Madness (15)  |  Pleasure (52)  |  Poverty (21)  |  Pressure (18)  |  Pride (21)  |  Public (35)  |  Reward (21)  |  Riches (5)  |  Satisfaction (31)  |  Steam Engine (21)  |  Use (54)  |  Value (63)  |  James Watt (6)

I say it is impossible that so sensible a people [citizens of Paris], under such circumstances, should have lived so long by the smoky, unwholesome, and enormously expensive light of candles, if they had really known that they might have had as much pure light of the sun for nothing.
[Describing the energy-saving benefit of adopting daylight saving time. (1784)]
'An Economical Project', The Life and Miscellaneous Writings of Benjamin Franklin (1839), 58. A translation of this letter appeared in one of the Paris daily papers about 1784. He estimated, during six months, a saving of over 64 million pound weight of candles, worth over 96 million livres tournois.
Science quotes on:  |  Candle (9)  |  Circumstance (25)  |  Daylight Saving Time (8)  |  Energy (103)  |  Expense (5)  |  Free (13)  |  Light (117)  |  Nothing (89)  |  Paris (4)  |  People (72)  |  Saving (12)  |  Sense (104)  |  Smoke (7)  |  Sun (115)

In the school of political projectors, I was but ill entertained, the professors appearing, in my judgment, wholly out of their senses; which is a scene that never fails to make me melancholy. These unhappy people were proposing schemes for persuading monarchs to choose favourites upon the score of their wisdom, capacity, and virtue; of teaching ministers to consult the public good; of rewarding merit, great abilities, and eminent services; of instructing princes to know their true interest, by placing it on the same foundation with that of their people; of choosing for employment persons qualified to exercise them; with many other wild impossible chimeras, that never entered before into the heart of man to conceive, and confirmed in me the old observation, that there is nothing so extravagant and irrational which some philosophers have not maintained for truth.
Gulliver's Travels (1726, Penguin ed. 1967), Part III, Chap. 6, 232.
Science quotes on:  |  Ability (37)  |  Chimera (2)  |  Employment (16)  |  Interest (82)  |  Irrational (2)  |  Merit (14)  |  Minister (4)  |  Observation (264)  |  People (72)  |  Philosopher (67)  |  Prince (5)  |  Professor (21)  |  Truth (450)  |  Unhappiness (4)  |  Wisdom (91)

It is impossible to answer your question briefly; and I am not sure that I could do so, even if I wrote at some length. But I may say that the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God; but whether this is an argument of real value, I have never been able to decide.
[Replying to query about his religious views]
Letter to a Dutch student (2 Apr 1873), in Charles Darwin and Sir Francis Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1896), 276.
Science quotes on:  |  Answer (96)  |  Argument (26)  |  Chance (77)  |  Conceiving (2)  |  Conscious (5)  |  Decide (4)  |  Existence (150)  |  God (234)  |  Grand (5)  |  Question (159)  |  Science And Religion (159)  |  Self (8)  |  Universe (291)

It is impossible to devise an experiment without a preconceived idea; devising an experiment, we said, is putting a question; we never conceive a question without an idea which invites an answer. I consider it, therefore, an absolute principle that experiments must always be devised in view of a preconceived idea, no matter if the idea be not very clear nor very well defined.
An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865, translation 1927, 1957), 23.
Science quotes on:  |  Absolute (32)  |  Answer (96)  |  Clarity (24)  |  Conceiving (2)  |  Consideration (38)  |  Definition (86)  |  Devise (4)  |  Experiment (369)  |  Idea (226)  |  Invitation (4)  |  Preconceive (2)  |  Principle (97)  |  Putting (2)  |  Question (159)  |  View (48)

Many of the things that have happened in the laboratory have happened in ways it would have been impossible to foresee, but not impossible to plan for in a sense. I do not think Dr. Whitney deliberately plans his serendipity but he is built that way; he has the art—an instinctive way of preparing himself by his curiosity and by his interest in people and in all kinds of things and in nature, so that the things he learns react on one another and thereby accomplish things that would be impossible to foresee and plan.
Quoted in Guy Suits, 'Willis Rodney Whitney', National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), 355.
Science quotes on:  |  Accomplishment (25)  |  Curiosity (52)  |  Deliberate (2)  |  Foresee (5)  |  Happening (23)  |  Instinct (24)  |  Interest (82)  |  Laboratory (75)  |  Nature (534)  |  People (72)  |  Plan (40)  |  Preparation (22)  |  Reaction (48)  |  Research (360)  |  Serendipity (10)  |  Willis R. Whitney (16)

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice.
An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). In R. H. Campbell and A. S. Skinner (eds.), An Enquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1976), Vol. 1, Book 1, Chapter 10, Part 2, 145.
Science quotes on:  |  Consistency (14)  |  Conspiracy (2)  |  Contrivance (6)  |  Conversation (8)  |  Diversion (5)  |  End (51)  |  Execution (6)  |  Justice (11)  |  Law (273)  |  Liberty (9)  |  Meeting (11)  |  People (72)  |  Prevention (26)  |  Price (9)  |  Public (35)  |  Raise (6)  |  Seldom (10)  |  Trade (9)

Science has taught us to think the unthinkable. Because when nature is the guide—rather than a priori prejudices, hopes, fears or desires—we are forced out of our comfort zone. One by one, pillars of classical logic have fallen by the wayside as science progressed in the 20th century, from Einstein's realization that measurements of space and time were not absolute but observer-dependent, to quantum mechanics, which not only put fundamental limits on what we can empirically know but also demonstrated that elementary particles and the atoms they form are doing a million seemingly impossible things at once.
In op-ed, 'A Universe Without Purpose', Los Angeles Times (1 Apr 2012).
Science quotes on:  |  20th Century (11)  |  A Priori (8)  |  Absolute (32)  |  Atom (164)  |  Classical (7)  |  Dependence (21)  |  Desire (46)  |  Albert Einstein (174)  |  Falling (3)  |  Fear (53)  |  Guide (17)  |  Hope (50)  |  Logic (132)  |  Measurement (112)  |  Nature (534)  |  Observer (10)  |  Pillar (2)  |  Prejudice (31)  |  Progress (200)  |  Quantum Mechanics (15)  |  Realization (22)  |  Science (875)  |  Space And Time (4)  |  Teaching (64)  |  Thinking (166)  |  Unthinkable (2)  |  Wayside (2)

Since 1849 I have studied incessantly, under all its aspects, a question which was already in my mind [since 1832. I confess that my scheme is still a mere dream, and I do not shut my eyes to the fact that so long as I alone believe it to be possible, it is virtually impossible. ... The scheme in question is the cutting of a canal through the Isthmus of Suez. This has been thought of from the earliest historical times, and for that very reason is looked upon as impracticable. Geographical dictionaries inform us indeed that the project would have been executed long ago but for insurmountable obstacles. [On his inspiration for the Suez Canal.]
Letter to M.S.A. Ruyssenaers, Consul-General for Holland in Egypt, from Paris (8 Jul 1852), seeking support. Collected in Ferdinand de Lesseps, The Suez Canal: Letters and Documents Descriptive of Its Rise and Progress in 1854-1856 (1876), 2.
Science quotes on:  |  Aspect (16)  |  Belief (139)  |  Dream (39)  |  Idea (226)  |  Incessantly (2)  |  Inspiration (30)  |  Insurmountable (2)  |  Isthmus (2)  |  Obstacle (9)  |  Possibility (70)  |  Question (159)  |  Study (157)

That the enthusiasm which characterizes youth should lift its parricide hands against freedom and science would be such a monstrous phenomenon as I cannot place among possible things in this age and country.
[Expressing confidence in the next generation to preserve the freedom of the human mind, and of the press, which grew out of America's Declaration of Independence.]
Letter to a student, William Green Mumford (18 Jun 1799), In Merrill D. Peterson, Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation (1970), 616.
Science quotes on:  |  America (41)  |  Characterization (5)  |  Country (43)  |  Enthusiasm (20)  |  Freedom (41)  |  Hand (34)  |  Monstrous (2)  |  Phenomenon (114)  |  Science (875)  |  Youth (32)

The first [quality] to be named must always be the power of attention, of giving one's whole mind to the patient without the interposition of anything of oneself. It sounds simple but only the very greatest doctors ever fully attain it. ... The second thing to be striven for is intuition. This sounds an impossibility, for who can control that small quiet monitor? But intuition is only interference from experience stored and not actively recalled. ... The last aptitude I shall mention that must be attained by the good physician is that of handling the sick man's mind.
In The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 98.
Science quotes on:  |  Activity (48)  |  Aptitude (6)  |  Attainment (23)  |  Attention (37)  |  Control (41)  |  Doctor (54)  |  Experience (132)  |  Greatness (24)  |  Handling (3)  |  Interference (7)  |  Interposition (2)  |  Intuition (26)  |  Mention (6)  |  Mind (272)  |  Monitor (2)  |  Patient (54)  |  Physician (172)  |  Quality (29)  |  Recall (3)  |  Sickness (15)  |  Simplicity (92)  |  Store (6)  |  Strive (7)

The inherent unpredictability of future scientific developments—the fact that no secure inference can be drawn from one state of science to another—has important implications for the issue of the limits of science. It means that present-day science cannot speak for future science: it is in principle impossible to make any secure inferences from the substance of science at one time about its substance at a significantly different time. The prospect of future scientific revolutions can never be precluded. We cannot say with unblinking confidence what sorts of resources and conceptions the science of the future will or will not use. Given that it is effectively impossible to predict the details of what future science will accomplish, it is no less impossible to predict in detail what future science will not accomplish. We can never confidently put this or that range of issues outside 'the limits of science', because we cannot discern the shape and substance of future science with sufficient clarity to be able to say with any assurance what it can and cannot do. Any attempt to set 'limits' to science—any advance specification of what science can and cannot do by way of handling problems and solving questions—is destined to come to grief.
The Limits of Science (1984), 102-3.
Science quotes on:  |  Accomplishment (25)  |  Advance (52)  |  Assurance (5)  |  Clarity (24)  |  Confidence (16)  |  Detail (33)  |  Discerning (3)  |  Effectiveness (9)  |  Future (110)  |  Handling (3)  |  Implication (9)  |  Importance (106)  |  Inference (16)  |  Inherent (17)  |  Issue (14)  |  Limit (34)  |  Prediction (48)  |  Present (36)  |  Principle (97)  |  Problem (180)  |  Range (12)  |  Science (875)  |  Security (14)  |  Shape (20)  |  Speaking (30)  |  Specification (3)  |  State (43)  |  Substance (39)  |  Unpredictability (4)

The man of true genius never lives before his time, he never undertakes impossibilities, and always embarks on his enterprise at the suitable place and period. Though he may catch a glimpse of the coming light as it gilds the mountain top long before it reaches the eyes of his contemporaries, and he may hazard a prediction as to the future, he acts with the present.
Closing Address (19 Mar 1858) at the Exhibition of the Metropolitan Mechanics' Institute, of Washington. Published as a pamphlet by the M.M. Institute (1853). Collected in Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, Vol. 30.
Science quotes on:  |  Act (22)  |  Coming (5)  |  Contemporary (10)  |  Enterprise (6)  |  Eye (67)  |  Future (110)  |  Genius (92)  |  Glimpse (3)  |  Hazard (7)  |  Life (460)  |  Light (117)  |  Mountain (66)  |  Period (24)  |  Place (32)  |  Prediction (48)  |  Present (36)  |  Suitability (9)  |  Time (170)  |  True (29)  |  Undertake (5)

The only difference between elements and compounds consists in the supposed impossibility of proving the so-called elements to be compounds.
'Faraday Lecture: Elements and Compounds', Journal of the Chemical Society (1904), 85, 520.
Science quotes on:  |  Compound (35)  |  Consist (8)  |  Difference (135)  |  Element (68)  |  Proof (136)  |  So-Called (5)  |  Supposition (25)

The present state of the system of nature is evidently a consequence of what it was in the preceding moment, and if we conceive of an intelligence that at a given instant comprehends all the relations of the entities of this universe, it could state the respective position, motions, and general affects of all these entities at any time in the past or future. Physical astronomy, the branch of knowledge that does the greatest honor to the human mind, gives us an idea, albeit imperfect, of what such an intelligence would be. The simplicity of the law by which the celestial bodies move, and the relations of their masses and distances, permit analysis to follow their motions up to a certain point; and in order to determine the state of the system of these great bodies in past or future centuries, it suffices for the mathematician that their position and their velocity be given by observation for any moment in time. Man owes that advantage to the power of the instrument he employs, and to the small number of relations that it embraces in its calculations. But ignorance of the different causes involved in the production of events, as well as their complexity, taken together with the imperfection of analysis, prevents our reaching the same certainty about the vast majority of phenomena. Thus there are things that are uncertain for us, things more or less probable, and we seek to compensate for the impossibility of knowing them by determining their different degrees of likelihood. So it was that we owe to the weakness of the human mind one of the most delicate and ingenious of mathematical theories, the science of chance or probability.
'Recherches, 1º, sur l'Intégration des Équations Différentielles aux Différences Finies, et sur leur Usage dans la Théorie des Hasards' (1773, published 1776). In Oeuvres complètes de Laplace, 14 Vols. (1843-1912), Vol. 8, 144-5, trans. Charles Coulston Gillispie, Pierre-Simon Laplace 1749-1827: A Life in Exact Science (1997), 26.
Science quotes on:  |  Analysis (82)  |  Astronomy (105)  |  Calculation (41)  |  Celestial (5)  |  Certainty (59)  |  Chance (77)  |  Complexity (51)  |  Difference (135)  |  Distance (26)  |  Event (49)  |  Honour (20)  |  Human Mind (21)  |  Ignorance (110)  |  Instrument (40)  |  Intelligence (76)  |  Knowledge (679)  |  Law (273)  |  Likelihood (3)  |  Mass (23)  |  Mathematician (110)  |  Motion (64)  |  Nature (534)  |  Observation (264)  |  Phenomenon (114)  |  Position (18)  |  Prediction (48)  |  Probability (56)  |  Relation (35)  |  Simplicity (92)  |  Theory (353)  |  Time (170)  |  Uncertainty (25)  |  Universe (291)  |  Velocity (5)  |  Weakness (14)

The radiation of radium was “contagious”—Contagious like a persistent scent or a disease. It was impossible for an object, a plant, an animal or a person to be left near a tube of radium without immediately acquiring a notable “activity” which a sensitive apparatus could detect.
Eve Curie
In Eve Curie, Madame Curie: a Biography by Eve Curie (1937, 2007), 196.
Science quotes on:  |  Activity (48)  |  Animal (143)  |  Apparatus (18)  |  Contagious (3)  |  Disease (170)  |  Measurement (112)  |  Object (47)  |  Persistence (10)  |  Person (38)  |  Plant (96)  |  Radiation (13)  |  Radioactivity (21)  |  Radium (13)  |  Scent (3)

The regularity with which we conclude that further advances in a particular field are impossible seems equaled only by the regularity with which events prove that we are of too limited vision. And it always seems to be those who have the fullest opportunity to know who are the most limited in view. What, then, is the trouble? I think that one answer should be: we do not realize sufficiently that the unknown is absolutely infinite, and that new knowledge is always being produced.
Quoted in Guy Suits, 'Willis Rodney Whitney', National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), 357.
Science quotes on:  |  Absolute (32)  |  Advance (52)  |  Answer (96)  |  Conclusion (74)  |  Event (49)  |  Field (69)  |  Further (2)  |  Infinity (44)  |  Knowledge (679)  |  Limit (34)  |  Opportunity (20)  |  Particular (24)  |  Production (72)  |  Proof (136)  |  Realization (22)  |  Regularity (11)  |  Sufficiency (13)  |  Trouble (22)  |  Unknown (40)  |  Vision (21)

The sciences have sworn among themselves an inviolable partnership; it is almost impossible to separate them, for they would rather suffer than be torn apart; and if anyone persists in doing so, he gets for his trouble only imperfect and confused fragments. Yet they do not arrive all together, but they hold each other by the hand so that they follow one another in a natural order which it is dangerous to change, because they refuse to enter in any other way where they are called. ...
Les Prιludes de l'Harmonie Universelle (1634), 135-139. In Charles Coulston Gillespie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1974), Vol. 9, 316.
Science quotes on:  |  Apart (3)  |  Change (133)  |  Confusion (22)  |  Danger (32)  |  Following (12)  |  Fragment (13)  |  Hold (21)  |  Imperfection (11)  |  Inviolable (2)  |  Natural (48)  |  Order (60)  |  Partnership (3)  |  Persistence (10)  |  Refusal (11)  |  Science (875)  |  Separation (23)  |  Suffering (20)  |  Tear (11)  |  Together (15)  |  Trouble (22)

The unprecedented identification of the spectrum of an apparently stellar object in terms of a large red-shift suggests either of the two following explanations.
The stellar object is a star with a large gravitational red-shift. Its radius would then be of the order of 10km. Preliminary considerations show that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to account for the occurrence of permitted lines and a forbidden line with the same red-shift, and with widths of only 1 or 2 per cent of the wavelength.
The stellar object is the nuclear region of a galaxy with a cosmological red-shift of 0.158, corresponding to an apparent velocity of 47,400 km/sec. The distance would be around 500 megaparsecs, and the diameter of the nuclear region would have to be less than 1 kiloparsec. This nuclear region would be about 100 times brighter optically than the luminous galaxies which have been identified with radio sources thus far. If the optical jet and component A of the radio source are associated with the galaxy, they would be at a distance of 50 kiloparsecs implying a time-scale in excess of 105 years. The total energy radiated in the optical range at constant luminosity would be of the order of 1059 ergs.
Only the detection of irrefutable proper motion or parallax would definitively establish 3C 273 as an object within our Galaxy. At the present time, however, the explanation in terms of an extragalactic origin seems more direct and less objectionable.
'3C 273: A Star-like Object with Large Red-Shift', Nature (1963), 197, 1040.
Science quotes on:  |  Account (15)  |  Difficulty (76)  |  Energy (103)  |  Forbidden (6)  |  Galaxy (19)  |  Identification (7)  |  Line (18)  |  Luminosity (4)  |  Occurrence (21)  |  Radius (3)  |  Red-Shift (3)  |  Spectrum (17)  |  Star (132)  |  Unprecedented (2)  |  Velocity (5)  |  Wavelength (5)

The very closest stars would require many years to visit, even traveling at the speed of light, which is impossible according to Einstein's theory of relativity. Today's fastest spaceships would require 200,000 years to travel to Alpha Centauri, our closest bright star. The energy required to send a hundred colonists to another star, as Frank Drake has pointed out, would be enough to meet the energy needs of the entire United States over a human lifetime. And these estimates are regarding nearby stars. When we consider the distances across the entire galaxy, and between galaxies, interstellar travel seems absolutely untenable.
[Co-author with his son, Marshall Fisher]
Strangers in the Night: a Brief History of Life on Other Worlds (1998).
Science quotes on:  |  Alpha Centauri (2)  |  Frank Drake (2)  |  Albert Einstein (174)  |  Energy (103)  |  Estimate (8)  |  Galaxy (19)  |  Human (168)  |  Lifetime (10)  |  Space (68)  |  Speed Of Light (10)  |  Star (132)  |  Theory Of Relativity (5)  |  Travel (14)  |  United States (12)  |  Untenable (2)

There is nothing more certain in nature than that it is impossible for any body to be utterly annihilated.
[Stating the conservation of matter.]
Sylva Sylvarum; or a Natural History in Ten Centuries (1627), Century 1, Experiment 100. Collected in The Works of Francis Bacon (1826), Vol 1, 285.
Science quotes on:  |  Annihilation (5)  |  Certainty (59)  |  Conservation Of Matter (6)  |  Matter (135)

[Louis Rendu, Bishop of Annecy] collects observations, makes experiments, and tries to obtain numerical results; always taking care, however, so to state his premises and qualify his conclusions that nobody shall be led to ascribe to his numbers a greater accuracy than they merit. It is impossible to read his work, and not feel that he was a man of essentially truthful mind and that science missed an ornament when he was appropriated by the Church.
In The Glaciers of the Alps (1860), 299.
Science quotes on:  |  Accuracy (34)  |  Appropriation (2)  |  Ascribe (6)  |  Care (37)  |  Church (16)  |  Collection (26)  |  Conclusion (74)  |  Essential (41)  |  Experiment (369)  |  Measurement (112)  |  Merit (14)  |  Mind (272)  |  Miss (5)  |  Number (90)  |  Observation (264)  |  Ornament (9)  |  Premise (7)  |  Qualification (5)  |  Read (32)  |  Louis le Chanoine Rendu (2)  |  Result (129)  |  Science (875)  |  Science And Religion (159)  |  Statement (28)  |  Truth (450)  |  Work (198)


Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
Quotations by: • Albert Einstein • Isaac Newton • Lord Kelvin • Charles Darwin • Srinivasa Ramanujan • Carl Sagan • Florence Nightingale • Thomas Edison • Aristotle • Marie Curie • Benjamin Franklin • Winston Churchill • Galileo Galilei • Sigmund Freud • Robert Bunsen • Louis Pasteur • Theodore Roosevelt • Abraham Lincoln • Ronald Reagan • Leonardo DaVinci • Michio Kaku • Karl Popper • Johann Goethe • Robert Oppenheimer • Charles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about: • Atomic  Bomb • Biology • Chemistry • Deforestation • Engineering • Anatomy • Astronomy • Bacteria • Biochemistry • Botany • Conservation • Dinosaur • Environment • Fractal • Genetics • Geology • History of Science • Invention • Jupiter • Knowledge • Love • Mathematics • Measurement • Medicine • Natural Resource • Organic Chemistry • Physics • Physician • Quantum Theory • Research • Science and Art • Teacher • Technology • Universe • Volcano • Virus • Wind Power • Women Scientists • X-Rays • Youth • Zoology  ... (more topics)
Sitewide search within all Today In Science History pages:
Custom Quotations Search - custom search within only our quotations pages:
Visit our Science and Scientist Quotations index for more Science Quotes from archaeologists, biologists, chemists, geologists, inventors and inventions, mathematicians, physicists, pioneers in medicine, science events and technology.

Names index: | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

Categories index: | 1 | 2 | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |
Author Icon
who invites your feedback

Today in Science History

Most Popular

Thank you for sharing.
Today in Science History
Sign up for Newsletter
with quiz, quotes and more.
- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton